The famed SAT college admissions exam will undergo a thorough redesign by the College Board, which is calling it an “ambitious effort” to “better meet” the needs of students and schools.
The SAT, first given in 1926, was revamped less than a decade ago when a written essay was added and some of the question formats were changed. Last year, for the first time, it lost its designation as the most popular college admissions exam to the ACT, by a margin of a few thousand students.
The College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, late last year appointed a new president, David Coleman, who was a co-writer of the Common Core State Standards. In a recent speech at the Brookings Institution, Coleman said he has a number of problems with the SAT as now written, including with its essay and vocabulary words. (You can read about that here.)
College Board Vice President Peter Kauffmann said the following e-mail was sent to all members of the College Board:
In the months ahead, the College Board will begin an effort in collaboration with its membership to redesign the SAT® so that it better meets the needs of students, schools, and colleges at all levels. We will develop an assessment that mirrors the work that students will do in college so that they will practice the work they need to do to complete college. An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career. This is an ambitious endeavor, and one that will only succeed with the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the strong coordination of our councils and committees, and the full engagement of our membership.
First administered in 1926, the SAT was created to democratize access to higher education for all students. Today the SAT serves as both a measure of students’ college and career readiness and a predictor of college outcomes. In its current form, the SAT is aligned to the Common Core as well as or better than any assessment that has been developed for college admission and placement, and serves as a valuable tool for educators and policymakers. While the SAT is the best standardized measure of college and career readiness currently available, the College Board has a responsibility to the millions of students we serve each year to ensure that our programs are continuously evaluated and enhanced, and most importantly respond to the emerging needs of those we serve.
As we begin the redesign process, there are three broad objectives that will drive our work:
• Increase the value of the SAT to students by focusing on a core set of knowledge and skills that are essential to college and career success; reinforcing the practice of enriching and valuable schoolwork; fostering greater opportunities for students to make successful transitions into postsecondary education; and ensuring equity and fairness.
• Increase the value of the SAT to higher education professionals by ensuring that the SAT meets the evolving needs of admission officers, faculty, and other administrators, and that the SAT remains a valid and reliable predictor of college success.
• Increase the value of the SAT to K–12 educators, administrators and counselors by strengthening the alignment of the SAT to college and career readiness; ensuring that the content reflects excellence in classroom instruction; and developing companion tools that allow educators to use SAT results to improve curriculum and instruction.
Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests, said this about the redesign:
The College Board’s announcement that it plans to revise its flagship exam, less than eight years after the previous “major overhaul” of the test was first administered, is an admission that the highly touted “new SAT” introduced in 2005 was a failure. The latest version of the test is, in fact, no better than its predecessor in predicting academic success in higher education or in creating a level playing field to assess an increasingly diverse student body. The only significant changes were that it was longer and cost test-takers more. As a result, more than 80 additional institutions have adopted test-optional or test flexible policies (attached), and the ACT overtook the SAT as the nation’s most popular exam for colleges which still require a test. Those developments left the new College Board leadership with no choice but to try to “reformulate” its product in an effort to maintain market share and relevance.